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The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction

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In The Art of Recklessness, Dean Young's sprawling and subversive first book of prose on poetry, imagination swerves into primitivism and surrealism and finally toward empathy. How can recklessness guide the poet, the artist, and the reader into art, and how can it excite in us a sort of wild receptivity, beyond craft? "Poetry is not a discipline," Young writes. "It is a h In The Art of Recklessness, Dean Young's sprawling and subversive first book of prose on poetry, imagination swerves into primitivism and surrealism and finally toward empathy. How can recklessness guide the poet, the artist, and the reader into art, and how can it excite in us a sort of wild receptivity, beyond craft? "Poetry is not a discipline," Young writes. "It is a hunger, a revolt, a drive, a mash note, a fright, a tantrum, a grief, a hoax, a debacle, an application, an affect . . ."


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In The Art of Recklessness, Dean Young's sprawling and subversive first book of prose on poetry, imagination swerves into primitivism and surrealism and finally toward empathy. How can recklessness guide the poet, the artist, and the reader into art, and how can it excite in us a sort of wild receptivity, beyond craft? "Poetry is not a discipline," Young writes. "It is a h In The Art of Recklessness, Dean Young's sprawling and subversive first book of prose on poetry, imagination swerves into primitivism and surrealism and finally toward empathy. How can recklessness guide the poet, the artist, and the reader into art, and how can it excite in us a sort of wild receptivity, beyond craft? "Poetry is not a discipline," Young writes. "It is a hunger, a revolt, a drive, a mash note, a fright, a tantrum, a grief, a hoax, a debacle, an application, an affect . . ."

30 review for The Art of Recklessness: Poetry as Assertive Force and Contradiction

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    What? There's an ART to being RECKLESS? Seems I took no classes as a kid, as a teenager. I just had at it, the devil take the hindmost (because he seemed little interested in the foremost). The title, though, is chosen because it is par t of Graywolf Press's "Art of..." series. Dean Young (who else?) got the call for recklessness because, well, HIS recklessness (called "poetry" in some rhomboids) is quite artful. Came this close (holds fingers an inch apart) to winning the Pulitzer Prize for his What? There's an ART to being RECKLESS? Seems I took no classes as a kid, as a teenager. I just had at it, the devil take the hindmost (because he seemed little interested in the foremost). The title, though, is chosen because it is par t of Graywolf Press's "Art of..." series. Dean Young (who else?) got the call for recklessness because, well, HIS recklessness (called "poetry" in some rhomboids) is quite artful. Came this close (holds fingers an inch apart) to winning the Pulitzer Prize for his collection, Elegy On Toy Piano. What did I gain from this book? A lot of the what, a bit of the why, but not much of the how. Meaning: if you're looking for Dean to share secrets to how he concocts his controlled anarchy, keep looking. Instead, he shares a few opinions on the wild and the crazy, on the Dadas and the Surrealists. And though he claims John Ashbery to be our greatest modern poet, he mentions him but once, giving the lion's share of attention to poets we don't immediately consider when we think "reckless": John Keats (with his wild and crazy Odes), William Wordsworth (who never met a word he didn't consider worth writing down), and Walt Whitman (leaves and the grass electric). "If the poet does not have the chutzpah to jeopardize habituated assumptions and practices, what will be produced will be sleep without the dream, a copy of a copy of a copy," The Dean of Recklessness tells us. He also is a great cheerleader. Any poet would love to have him as a teacher (U of Texas, Austin, methinks). "Our poems are what the gods couldn't make without going through us." Dean Young may seem playful as hell in his poetry, but this book can be scholarly as all get-out at times, throwing around some big-boy words (the kind where I say, "Huh?"). He also quotes with abundance. Here's a Wallace Stevens, for instance: "It is necessary to any originality to have the courage to be an amateur." Oh, I love it. The Art of Being an Amateur I have nailed! Where do I begin collecting checks and raves? And there's humor here: "Poetry, as everyone knows, is in competition with girls' volleyball for the crowd. It's all about numbers... And in regards to the common bellyache that the only audience for poetry is poets: but it's been noted by many that poetry is like a foreign language; you need to learn grammars and idioms to get it, so what's so terrible about people who know Portuguese being the people who are interested in listening to and reading Portuguese? Arcane specialization? Elitism? Surely no more than girls' volleyball. Poetry's greatest task is not to solidify groups or get the right people elected or moralize or broadcast; it is to foster a necessary privacy in which the imagination can flourish. Then we may have something to say to each other." Dean also calls complacency the greatest enemy of art, with an aside about the hidden "me" in "poetry": "It is also worth entertaining the notion that the least important time in any workshop is when your own work is being talked about. It's called 'Poetry Workshop,' not 'Me Workshop,' after all. The imagination wants to say something you can hear and often what you say about someone else's poem is exactly what you need to hear about your own. The way in is to go out." Clearly Dean Young has trafficked with a few poets in his day. Self-promotion (while pretending not to self-promote) is the name of the game. As for examples of reckless poems, they are few and far between, given the brevity of the book. It's more Young providing the Old history of imagination's resistance. All in all, equal parts cheerful and depressing. Cheerfully, you might wing it next workshop or on-line critique group, even though you know the mavens of tradition are waiting in the wings to nitpick your punctuation, your grammar, your syntax. On the other hand, he warns, sometimes reckless art is bad art. Great. Just when I was beginning to take wing and feel the exultation of freedom, I get the overheating rays of the sun again, melting my wax. You can write bad poetry conventionally OR unconventionally, I'm afraid. The World of Art takes no prisoners, even in a minimum-security prison like Recklessness.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lee Klein

    Recommended manifesto re: primitivism, Navajo poems, Romanticism, Rimbaud, Duchamp, Dada, Surrealism, the radioactive core of inspired work, on and on. Covers too much ground to summarize. Formal swerve matches content (see also On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry by William Gass). Wonderfully composed, inspiring, affirming of life and art, even if it sometimes seems intentionally excessively overecstatic/associative. Too many page corners turned down to count. More LOLs than expected for som Recommended manifesto re: primitivism, Navajo poems, Romanticism, Rimbaud, Duchamp, Dada, Surrealism, the radioactive core of inspired work, on and on. Covers too much ground to summarize. Formal swerve matches content (see also On Being Blue: A Philosophical Inquiry by William Gass). Wonderfully composed, inspiring, affirming of life and art, even if it sometimes seems intentionally excessively overecstatic/associative. Too many page corners turned down to count. More LOLs than expected for something so densely crafted (albeit consistently skeptical of the sterilizing codifications/commodifications of art into craft). Every page has 3+ epigrams: epigraphs waiting to happen. Eat this succulent choirpreach peach of literary enlightenment and revel in the glorious eros of errors.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Smith

    I’ve always sworn that the day I actually use the cliché designation ‘a tour de force’ is the day I should stop writing reviews, but I can honestly say that phrase, at its most genuine sentiment, is what needs to be bannered across the cover of this book, practically as a genre all its own. I should admit some bias here--as a young poet directly in the middle of earning the degree everyone and their grandmother has an opinion on, the MFA, this book felt almost supernaturally conscious of me and m I’ve always sworn that the day I actually use the cliché designation ‘a tour de force’ is the day I should stop writing reviews, but I can honestly say that phrase, at its most genuine sentiment, is what needs to be bannered across the cover of this book, practically as a genre all its own. I should admit some bias here--as a young poet directly in the middle of earning the degree everyone and their grandmother has an opinion on, the MFA, this book felt almost supernaturally conscious of me and many of my own convictions and concerns regarding poetry. Young’s accusations are nearly universally my own; his passionate beliefs are ones I myself share and his articulation of them not only offers the welcome comfort of knowing that I Am Not Alone In This Room, but also that they have been spelled out far more brilliantly than I could hope to. The accusation here, to boil many down to one, is ‘simply’ that poetry has been relegated far too often (and far too easily) to the realm of craft, with all the neatness, perfection, and of course streamlined efficiency one might associate with that word. What has become neglected, Young asserts, is the primitive, the way that poetry might be seen to spring forth both out of and in response to our ‘first needs’, the so-called human pang, a kind of emotional and spiritual dialogue with everyone and no one, transcribed literally. The ‘answer’, to use a somewhat reductive label, is what one might expect, which is to say the opposite of the above. A return to this primitive, a dismissal of what Young calls ‘The dry-ice fog of experimental poetry’, among other examples of what we might term gimmickry. Young’s convictions seem to be settled bravely into a renaissance of sincerity, the very beginning of which is an acceptance of its validity. Many of those even tangentially aware of the landscape of contemporary poetry will probably be quite familiar with the two poles of current belief, envisioned in this book as ramparts of sorts. On one extreme we find, forgive the term, ‘old school’ poets that hold firm beliefs regarding tradition, convention, ideas about indoctrination (watch them cringe at the word while getting red-in-the-face at those who run wild of being pulled in), and...well you get the idea. On the other we have newer, often times (but not always) younger poets, experimental in nature (they’ll get red too, just refuse to call them avant-garde!) that denounce all forms for the previously mentioned. In this book, Young’s brilliance is his honest and often nearly incandescent way of finding a middle ground that in no way assumes any kind of compromise; this is not a matter of grey area, it’s a matter of worrying about shades to begin with. Both ‘sides’ have got it wrong, and they got that way by thinking there were really sides at all and then worrying about where they wanted to stand--often more sincerely, where they wanted to be seen standing. On the very first page, Young proclaims “I believe in the divinity of profligacy”, and this serves perfectly enough as a capstone on the book as a whole. The poet must allow for mess, total carnage and wreckage, must not be afraid to be stained. Forget the cleanly ritualized balance of free writing and revising; one should organically work into the other. One idea among many, but the heart of the book. This book is not a manifesto. Young’s aim is not to shake anyone up through hyperbole and insult. In many ways I perceived this book to be a prose equivalent to the kind of poetic activity Young both admires and hungers to see more of; there are no agendas here, no gimmicks or jingles. Young isn’t trying to sell anyone anything in this book, he’s only trying to take his own advice and get back to a primitive drive, the drive for a ‘first need’ to see this kind of discussion about poetry going on, any way that it has to happen. Young’s love and pride for poetry as well as art as a whole is really the sheen on this book. This book defies any accusation regarding its own sincerity, and the effect on at least this reader is proof positive of its prescription’s validity, and efficacy. (This review copy was received through the Goodreads First Reads contest.)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey (Akiva) Savett

    I love Dean Young and have also found many volumes of this series on the craft on poetry quite helpful. The three stars here aren't for Young's IDEAS--they are fabulous and inspirational. But the book itself, how can I expect differently given the title, is repetitive, a little too self-indulgent and hyperbolic. By its end, you'll feel like writing a poem is the creation of a cosmos and the destruction of another one. And as a poet, on some level, I pray that this is the case. But after a while, I love Dean Young and have also found many volumes of this series on the craft on poetry quite helpful. The three stars here aren't for Young's IDEAS--they are fabulous and inspirational. But the book itself, how can I expect differently given the title, is repetitive, a little too self-indulgent and hyperbolic. By its end, you'll feel like writing a poem is the creation of a cosmos and the destruction of another one. And as a poet, on some level, I pray that this is the case. But after a while, one needs to dispense with the breathlessness and the non-stop graduate school love of Derrida, Bakhtin, and Barthes. Young's beliefs about the role of recklessness and surrealism can be found stated more succinctly and helpfully in Richard Hugo's "The Triggering Town." This won't stop me from delighting in Young's poetry and being inspired by his recklessness. The latter just doesn't make for amazing book length prose.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Petersen Wolven

    This is not the kind of book you breeze through, despite it's diminutive size. I started and stopped it several times since receiving it in First Reads, and it has lived on the nightstand for months. Finally I just tossed it into my bag to read when time became available throughout the day.(Here is where the small size comes in handy.) I'm about to read it again with a highlighter handy and will be adding more detail to this review, but in the meantime I highly recommend it to anyone who loves p This is not the kind of book you breeze through, despite it's diminutive size. I started and stopped it several times since receiving it in First Reads, and it has lived on the nightstand for months. Finally I just tossed it into my bag to read when time became available throughout the day.(Here is where the small size comes in handy.) I'm about to read it again with a highlighter handy and will be adding more detail to this review, but in the meantime I highly recommend it to anyone who loves poetry.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ellie

    The Art of Recklessness is another one of Greywolf's "The Art of ..." series which I am working my way through, mostly with great pleasure. The Art of Recklessness is a delight. It is a paean to poetry's evocative/disruptive power and to the power of the imagination to inform and reform our lives. Young (a wonderful poet himself) looks at poets as diverse as Shakespeare (Hamlet), Whitman, Keats, the surrealists, and the Dadaists (among others) to see how their rebellions, their very failures are The Art of Recklessness is another one of Greywolf's "The Art of ..." series which I am working my way through, mostly with great pleasure. The Art of Recklessness is a delight. It is a paean to poetry's evocative/disruptive power and to the power of the imagination to inform and reform our lives. Young (a wonderful poet himself) looks at poets as diverse as Shakespeare (Hamlet), Whitman, Keats, the surrealists, and the Dadaists (among others) to see how their rebellions, their very failures are sites of power. Although revision is a cold but necessary act, Young affirms the necessity of remaining true to the original spark, the why the poem is written, the passion at its core. The book often left me breathless and frequently made me laugh. A poetry essay book that makes you laugh? Yes. Replete with knock-knock jokes (Young claims Hamlet begins with the greatest knock-knock joke of all time!). Underneath the humor, though, is a fiery passion for poetry and imagination and their power to change who we are, to create us anew. Despite its allegiance to the profane, that irreverence that knocks the wind out of pretension, there is a strong spiritual element to this work. A faith in the power of art, specifically poetry, to empower us to recreate the world, one poem at a time.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Daniela

    had to read for mfa class. like, nah bro dont bother.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Krzysztof

    I'm not sure this is a full five stars, but everything after "STANZA BREAK" was brilliant and the whole thing is so in line with how I view poetry that I'm looking past the jumbled beginning. I can't really blame people if they gave up on this. The lack of focus from the get-go could be hard to push through. Young's use of ALL CAPS FOR MINOR STATEMENTS comes off as shouting and his challenge to the reader on page 14 to close the book if you don't agree with him really annoys. If you stick around, I'm not sure this is a full five stars, but everything after "STANZA BREAK" was brilliant and the whole thing is so in line with how I view poetry that I'm looking past the jumbled beginning. I can't really blame people if they gave up on this. The lack of focus from the get-go could be hard to push through. Young's use of ALL CAPS FOR MINOR STATEMENTS comes off as shouting and his challenge to the reader on page 14 to close the book if you don't agree with him really annoys. If you stick around, though, the erratic prose begins to, if not come together, at least cohere in a very Youngian stream-of-consciousness way, whereas the beginning felt like a warm-up to speaking in tongues, and it should have been edited out. Young even sort of acknowledges his initial aggression and quotes Whitman's "I contain multitudes", saying that he couldn't possibly account for all poetic impulses and that he's very probably even wrong about a lot of what he's said. But that's a big part of his point. You've got to be willing to wander, to break from form, and to just be downright wrong. Still not sure about the taunting, but whatever. I also liked that he referenced the Oulipians toward the end. I just read a history of them and in it, they positioned themselves in stark contrast to the Surrealists. I like both groups, but I found the Oulipians to be too sensitive to historical slights and Young seemed much more relaxed about the whole thing. I also agree with Young that while constraints can be useful motivators, you run the risk of writing in a mechanistic and clinical way. Book-length lipograms? Record breaking palindromes? To what effect? I much prefer the Bretons and Youngs of the world, writing as if "about to be devoured by ants"; who listen to their impulses, and who recognize happy accidents when they occur.

  9. 5 out of 5

    C.G. Fewston

    The Art of Recklessness by Dean Young is a breath of fresh air for any who read books about the art of poetry or the craft thereof. The portable book offers some wonderful advice to any writer. One I enjoyed: “At every moment the poet must be ready to abandon any prior intention in welcome expectation of what the poem is beginning to signal. More than intending, the poet ATTENDS!” (p 4) And later: “Meaningless results not from too little but too much meaning” (p 91). One of the great things about The Art of Recklessness by Dean Young is a breath of fresh air for any who read books about the art of poetry or the craft thereof. The portable book offers some wonderful advice to any writer. One I enjoyed: “At every moment the poet must be ready to abandon any prior intention in welcome expectation of what the poem is beginning to signal. More than intending, the poet ATTENDS!” (p 4) And later: “Meaningless results not from too little but too much meaning” (p 91). One of the great things about this book, and its writer, is that Young makes it clear that the writer at many times in the process of writing must let go and enjoy the act of creation through writing, and not to get hung up on too many rules (although he asserts throughout that certain rules do indeed dictate the craft), but to allow the message to flow through unfiltered and for the writer not to wheedle the message or the art/craft too much that it becomes stale, boring, unoriginal. Originality is clearly one message the book promotes. The other message is Surrealism and how it can be achieved and its usefulness, and necessity among the current art forms (or genres) of writing, and how surrealism (authentic surrealism) to often abandoned and disrespected far too quickly. “If there is divinity in us,” writes Young, “it is in the process of allowing ourselves to unmake and remake ourselves” (p 125). The reader will not be disappointed with this guide to recklessness, for all its sage and witty remarks make this an insightful and pleasurable read. A strong recommend for those who read craft workbooks.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Joan Colby

    A quick reread to check the areas I'd highlighted--still of importance to poets. Young’s assertion that poetry “is no more a thing than fire is; rather it is a conversion that reveals itself in the instance of its occasion.” aligns with my own ideas. He uses many examples from art to illustrate how poetry evolves, suggests and rebels against its predecessors. He contradicts himself slightly in arguing that poetry is not craft, but later stating that it’s imperative for the poet to detach himself A quick reread to check the areas I'd highlighted--still of importance to poets. Young’s assertion that poetry “is no more a thing than fire is; rather it is a conversion that reveals itself in the instance of its occasion.” aligns with my own ideas. He uses many examples from art to illustrate how poetry evolves, suggests and rebels against its predecessors. He contradicts himself slightly in arguing that poetry is not craft, but later stating that it’s imperative for the poet to detach himself from the work “to see poems as things, material to be manipulated.” He acknowledges “that condition of estrangement is extraordinarily productive, it is craft after all; in fact, it sites itself upon production to near elimination of the personal, emotive, resistant, explosive, primitive, and blooded.” Yet again, caught between the two ideas, he says “When art strives for the decorum of craft, it withers to table manners during a famine. The job of poetry is to project emotions and thoughts, not eulogize them, not to inter them but to prove with ardent intensity what those feelings and thoughts aspire toward…” He stresses in all caps “THE HIGHEST ACCOMPLISHMENT OF HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS IS THE IMAGINATION AND THE HIGHEST ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE IMAGINATION IS EMPATHY and the ability to love.” Young advises poets to be artists, not careerists, to take risks, to be reckless. A fascinating book with many valid prescriptions. I’d differ with some of his beliefs—he thinks Ashbery is the greatest poet of his generation (I think Young is a better one). I found myself highlighting many passages, something I rarely do.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Antonia

    Not a quick or an easy read. Not a craft book — more of an anti-craft book. I've gotten lost more than once. Another reviewer said dense, passionate, and reckless. I concur. It's a book to go back to again and again, is maybe best taken in small doses. Read a little. Think. Then maybe, think again. It's a lot about opening up, disrupting expectations, being a little crazy, goofy, unruly. It's about accessing the primitive, the primary ground. In Young's words, "Let us get better at not knowing w Not a quick or an easy read. Not a craft book — more of an anti-craft book. I've gotten lost more than once. Another reviewer said dense, passionate, and reckless. I concur. It's a book to go back to again and again, is maybe best taken in small doses. Read a little. Think. Then maybe, think again. It's a lot about opening up, disrupting expectations, being a little crazy, goofy, unruly. It's about accessing the primitive, the primary ground. In Young's words, "Let us get better at not knowing what we’re doing." This book is so packed full, I can't do it justice. Almost every sentence is something you want to stop and reread. "I believe in the divinity of profligacy," he says. "Poets are excellent students of blizzards and salt and broken statuary, but they are always somewhere else for the test." Good advice to the Poetry Elite (I won't name names): "Poetry can’t be harmed by people trying to write it!" "The emphasis on craft, on a series of procedures and techniques, is too much like the creation of perfectly safe nuclear reactors without acknowledging the necessity of radioactive matter for the core." "When art strives for the decorums of craft, it withers to table manners during a famine."

  12. 5 out of 5

    Thomas M.

    "( I always tell my students not to worry about originality; just try to copy the manners and musics of the various, the more various the better, poetries you love; your originality will come from your inability to copy well: YOUR GENIUS IS YOUR ERROR.)" Pages 156 & 157 “Poetry is not a discipline. It is a hunger, a revolt, a drive, a mash note, a fright, a tantrum, a grief, a hoax, a debacle, an application, an affect. It is a collaboration: the bad news may be that we are never entirely in contr "( I always tell my students not to worry about originality; just try to copy the manners and musics of the various, the more various the better, poetries you love; your originality will come from your inability to copy well: YOUR GENIUS IS YOUR ERROR.)" Pages 156 & 157 “Poetry is not a discipline. It is a hunger, a revolt, a drive, a mash note, a fright, a tantrum, a grief, a hoax, a debacle, an application, an affect. It is a collaboration: the bad news may be that we are never entirely in control but the good news is we collaborate with genius—the language. We cannot make the gods come, all we can do is sweep the steps of the temple and thus we sit down to our desks. When art strives for the decorums of craft, it withers to table manners during a famine. The job of poetry is to project emotions and thoughts, not eulogize them, not to inter them but to prove with ardent intentions what those feelings and thoughts aspire toward, flee from, that ring true to the apparatus of sensation and the medium—emotions and inklings that everyone has but through the extremity and enacting of poetry seem to have never happened before. MORE WRECK! I am not interested in the page that seeks to impress me by the splatter marks of brow sweat. The anemic and the timid that masks itself in the veneer of prosodic perfection or in the dry ice fog of experimentation.”

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mattia

    My favorite part of this was the overall vocabulary; a few words sent me in the right direction with a poem I felt stuck on. Even though the book was fairly short, it felt long and I wish it had been more edited. The stream-of-consciousness at times felt more performative than interesting. Something I thought multiple times was that some of the prose could benefit from formatting. If not poetry, at least some bullets now and again. And honestly I think the ideal format for this material would be My favorite part of this was the overall vocabulary; a few words sent me in the right direction with a poem I felt stuck on. Even though the book was fairly short, it felt long and I wish it had been more edited. The stream-of-consciousness at times felt more performative than interesting. Something I thought multiple times was that some of the prose could benefit from formatting. If not poetry, at least some bullets now and again. And honestly I think the ideal format for this material would be digital, where you click on the part that strikes you and it zooms you over to another related section. I hate Prezi, but that's the visual I had in mind.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Grant Faulkner

    Dean Young is a hero of mine. He's an absurdist, a surrealist. You can't read his poetry without feeling the lovely zaniness of his mind at work. He's a poet who is entirely singular, and he really can't be imitated (I've tried). This book is one of the most empowering for writers because he writes about breaking the rules, not following them. It's a manifesto on the creative spirit itself. I know I'll return to this time and time again.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sara Habein

    Definitely not light reading, so this took me a little while to read, as I mainly read before bed and was sometimes too tired to do more than a few pages (this is not the book's fault, of course). Lots of good stuff to consider, write down. Made me want to read more of his poetry.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Amie Whittemore

    It's a wonderful, intelligent, imaginative romp through Dean Young's brain. Definitely worth reading again and definitely something that would be fun to read with other poets/poetry students.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jehozephat

    construct

  18. 5 out of 5

    Brooke Bragg

    Interesting bits but overall very dense and a little all over the place, sometimes in a humorous and entertaining way.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Leanna

    "The Art of" Series is edited by Charles Baxter. I found this book fascinating--it articulated Young's aesthetic and pedagogy in a way that I found both interesting and helpful (he's my professor!) It also intersected nicely with a class I am taking now which deals with a lot of Surreal and Modern texts--Young gives brief histories of Romanticism, Dadaism, Surrealism, and Modernism, and talks about how these schools unfolded. Young has been described as both a "new" New York School poet and also "The Art of" Series is edited by Charles Baxter. I found this book fascinating--it articulated Young's aesthetic and pedagogy in a way that I found both interesting and helpful (he's my professor!) It also intersected nicely with a class I am taking now which deals with a lot of Surreal and Modern texts--Young gives brief histories of Romanticism, Dadaism, Surrealism, and Modernism, and talks about how these schools unfolded. Young has been described as both a "new" New York School poet and also a New Surrealist, and it was cool to read his thoughts about various Surrealists and their writing. This is a book written with a very loose thesis (if I have it right--poetry is primal! Capture that primitveness! Schools of poetry based on remove, novelty for the sake of novelty, obsession with form, etc., do not connect the human experience to poetry and therefore fail! The Surrealists, with their love of imagination and dreams and living each day on impulse and chance, are doing something right, as they are brave enough to break with tradition and to roll about in the wildness of human nature!). The book is structured as a series of sections that don't necessarily follow from each other, and, as befits the content, is full of lyrical twirls and swirls and madcap bursts of words. In other words, Young stylistically embodies his content of embracing the reckless. What else--well, to help me with my other class, here's how Young defines various schools (most of this is in Young's words, so I'm not going to put it all in quotations, but a bit is my paraphrase): (1) Romantacism-- begins an investigation of the imagination that will reach full, monstrous results with Surrealism. Central to Romanticism is the power of imagination. Breton apparently referred to Romanticism as "the prehensile tail of Surrealism"! (2) dada-- all artistic positions and expression fail, including dada. "It means nothing, aims to mean nothing, and was adapted precisely because of its absence of meaning" (Richard Huelsenbeck). Dada-ists were disgusted with society and celebrated that disgust. (3) Surrealism-- A group from the Paris dada group eventually became the leading Surrealists (Breton, Aragon). The Surrealists took dada's rupturing iconoclasm, preserving its unconditional outrage and love of scandal, and harnessed it to a rapture ultimately redemptive of the human condition by redefining the powers of the imagination (so, in my words, dada's break with tradition PLUS power of the imagination). The goal was to ruin the shackled intellect and to liberate another kind of mind. Its spirit was life first, art after, in that one must live in a Surreal way; the art is the by-product! Values a nonrational, antilogical way of reading the world; values the chance encounter. Wants to put us in a state that Breton calls "always for the first time." Children and the mad can speak Surreally better than most! Very important to Surrealism is "the desired suddenness from certain associations." Young notes that Surrealism is most commonly associated with its imagery (two objects incongruously brought together or one object given irrational characteristics). Surrealism has no fidelity except to the electricity of perception and the undeniability of desire. (4) Modernism--interested in the fracturing of the self, a la Surrealism, but has a much more gloomy view of it. My other thoughts--Young spends a fair amount of time on the debate between poetry as illusion vs poetry as revealed materials. He seems to think that "showing" materials is more "primitive" (in a good way), that art that strives for total representation and illusion is missing out on some fundamental human messiness. Interesting way to frame the debate; not sure if I agree. This book is very readable, often funny, and explores many topics of interest to poets in an engaging fashion (no dour academic droning here!) His voice is sometimes amusingly grumpy, which I got a kick out of.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kitty

    The Art of Rec kles sn ess examines primitivism, surrealism and the “wild receptivity” of imagination that excites something beyond craft and draws us near to empathy. Young emphasizes the fact that being human, we are not “equations with hats”, nor is it necessarily beneficial to hold our words on long leashes so that they describe what we perceive. Don’t be fooled by the word, “Reckless” in the title, as imagination has its own clarity. Rather, the etymology, which stems from Old English, recc The Art of Rec kles sn ess examines primitivism, surrealism and the “wild receptivity” of imagination that excites something beyond craft and draws us near to empathy. Young emphasizes the fact that being human, we are not “equations with hats”, nor is it necessarily beneficial to hold our words on long leashes so that they describe what we perceive. Don’t be fooled by the word, “Reckless” in the title, as imagination has its own clarity. Rather, the etymology, which stems from Old English, reccelēas careless (cognate with German ruchlos which has a “devil may care” dastardly sound to it) means to enter the struggle between innovation and harmony. The book is filled with examples such as Ashbery, Man Ray, the French Oulipiens and surrealists, dada-ists, and gives an overview of how poetry, art, music have navigated through caution, restraint of craft, considerations of outward pleasing, to throw them open to the wind.

  21. 5 out of 5

    John Pappas

    Another hit in the extending line of "The Art of..." books, edited by Charles Baxter and published by Graywolf Press, poet Dean Young's prose is as reckless as his subject -- the recklessness of poetry itself. Tacking back and forth over a significant sea of information, art and literature (including a wonderful tangent on Hamlet) Young explores the contradictions and subjectivities in poetry -- all poetry, not just the contemporary poetry Young writes and for which he makes a case. Touching on Another hit in the extending line of "The Art of..." books, edited by Charles Baxter and published by Graywolf Press, poet Dean Young's prose is as reckless as his subject -- the recklessness of poetry itself. Tacking back and forth over a significant sea of information, art and literature (including a wonderful tangent on Hamlet) Young explores the contradictions and subjectivities in poetry -- all poetry, not just the contemporary poetry Young writes and for which he makes a case. Touching on the Romantics, Surrealists and Dadaists, Young shows how poets leap into contradiction, smashing associations seemingly codified in the language itself. Recklessness, fearlessness and assertiveness in the service of the poetry and the poet is the subject and the charge here, and Young's exploration, chaotic digressions and all, is intense, erudite and passionate. His winsome, collegial tone carries us through even the most disarming comment or distant allusion.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    This is blowing my mind once per page. Overall, it's about poetry, but Dean Young jumps around discussing topics as varied as: primitive art, dada, Gertrude Stein, Rimbaud, otherness, sex, craft, Ezra Pound, disruption, Picasso... in a way that makes it easy to understand the connection between those things. For instance, I'd never considered how WWI led to Dada which led to Surrealism. This book contains the most insightful explanation of Surrealism that I've read. It's obvious that Young is re This is blowing my mind once per page. Overall, it's about poetry, but Dean Young jumps around discussing topics as varied as: primitive art, dada, Gertrude Stein, Rimbaud, otherness, sex, craft, Ezra Pound, disruption, Picasso... in a way that makes it easy to understand the connection between those things. For instance, I'd never considered how WWI led to Dada which led to Surrealism. This book contains the most insightful explanation of Surrealism that I've read. It's obvious that Young is really excited about this content; his analyses are often poetic themselves. The poems he cites by Hass, Wordsworth, Keats, Breton, Carlos Williams, Baraka, among others, are the bomb. My reading list probably doubled while reading this.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Taka

    Good! At first I thought it was just too weird—is it an essay? A meditation? A diatribe? Or poetry?—and was frustrated at times by the metaphysical and abstract bent of his writing in the beginning, but after finishing the book, I must say I enjoyed what the book has to say about the creative process, the imagination, and poetry (or any creative work for that matter). The weird style in which it's written, too, is just another "reckless" way the author challenges convention and his writing is ass Good! At first I thought it was just too weird—is it an essay? A meditation? A diatribe? Or poetry?—and was frustrated at times by the metaphysical and abstract bent of his writing in the beginning, but after finishing the book, I must say I enjoyed what the book has to say about the creative process, the imagination, and poetry (or any creative work for that matter). The weird style in which it's written, too, is just another "reckless" way the author challenges convention and his writing is assertive, powerful, and poetic to say the least. It made me think about art in a different way, and I'm glad I read it. Good stuff.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Daryoung

    This book, which, in genre is closest to a long essay about poetry, was really good for me. At times Young wanders (and the whole thing is a wonder/wander) to topics that bored me, but the concept of letting recklessness drive my art is something I need to incorporate in order to make the next step in my progress. Young's own work is a great example of the freshness and electricity that recklessness can bring to poetry, though I sometimes feel his work could use a little more craft (revision?) o This book, which, in genre is closest to a long essay about poetry, was really good for me. At times Young wanders (and the whole thing is a wonder/wander) to topics that bored me, but the concept of letting recklessness drive my art is something I need to incorporate in order to make the next step in my progress. Young's own work is a great example of the freshness and electricity that recklessness can bring to poetry, though I sometimes feel his work could use a little more craft (revision?) once the lightning has left its impression . . .

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    This was a great book to chip away at during my first year of graduate school, and while I don't wholesale agree with every point Young makes (factpoems 4ever) his exploration of Surrealism as a destabilization of linear, craft-based approaches to poetry, alongside his presentation of the mutually arising creation/destruction of personal identity were resonant with Eastern ideals of impermanence in a way that was surprising and delightful. I'll probably start dream journaling more consistently a This was a great book to chip away at during my first year of graduate school, and while I don't wholesale agree with every point Young makes (factpoems 4ever) his exploration of Surrealism as a destabilization of linear, craft-based approaches to poetry, alongside his presentation of the mutually arising creation/destruction of personal identity were resonant with Eastern ideals of impermanence in a way that was surprising and delightful. I'll probably start dream journaling more consistently again because of this book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    I read The Art of Recklessness at the recommendation of a professor, and while I can't say my views align with Young's all the time (or, hell, even most of the time), I'm glad to have read it. Though short, the book is dense and takes some unpacking, and Young's ideas are worth the time it takes to work through them. Parts of the book felt truly freeing, and for that, I'm thankful. Though I wouldn't recommend this to every poet or reader of poetry, I know it would certainly work for some.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Allyson

    "Quaintness may be the worst that can happen to an art, its fire replaced by a lava lamp" (8). Well said, sir. - I don't know why I pulled this book off my shelf, I'm just glad I did. Comps Weekend is in three weeks and I will be referencing this work in the poetics/theory part, for sure. I love you, Dean Young, for writing this book. Whenever I see you walk by me in your leather jacket at AWP I will send you thankful, energetic mind-vibes.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    A small, gripping book (in the “The Art of” series from Graywolf Press) about the forces colliding in the urge to write poetry, about poetry’s purpose in the world, the poet’s gift, etc. Illuminating (actual poems and poets are discussed) and inspirational, with the occasional capitalized declaration: “Some people try to convince you poetry is so important you have no business trying to write it without severe indoctrination. But POETRY CAN’T BE HARMED BY PEOPLE TRYING TO WRITE IT!”

  29. 5 out of 5

    IE

    3.5 Young just had to prove his point. He was probably drunk and drugged the whole way through, his reckless writing increasingly irritating, which was perhaps the point. I dunno. I wanted to like this guy, this book because of his first and last few pages, which were manic yes, but more focused, which proved that he could. But there was just too much Surrealism, too much Dada, and too much nonsense in the middle that the incredible parts were almost not worth it.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlin

    Compelling read on poetic Surrealism. Borderline discursive and heady; found myself glazing over some paragraphs, but by the end I discovered that I am more attracted to the theory of surrealism than surrealist art: a resurrection of the imaginative subject. A childlike marveling at the world. An undefined relationship between self and other, subject and object. A questioning of reality, an abandonment of comfort. Creative play.

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